One of the fondest memories of my childhood is of my father at the plow following two well-domesticated and strong oxen opening a straight furrow in the good earth. Most of center part of Spain sits on a high plain. There are of course mountainous regions, but overall in most of the provinces there is a huge plateau of arable land and agriculture was the mainstay of all those provinces in central Spain. The province of Salamanca, two hours by car west of central Madrid, towards the border with Portugal, is as plain as it gets. But those plains have millions of acres of this good land where wheat fields abound from town to town. Maybe a little like Kansas in the US, but on a very small scale.
My family owned about 500 acres of fairly good land, in different areas of town, apart from the prairies on the skirts of the mountain range for grasses for the cattle. Every year began with the same routine: preparing the land, cleaning the thorn bushes and wild grasses, turning over the earth and waiting for the right weather and rains to cooperate. Then the last plowing and the sowing of the wheat would begin. That would be during the fall, before the heavy winter rains wash the earth and seed away. The image of my dad plowing the good earth with one pair of oxen and then sowing the wheat in a lovely motion from the sack hanging from across the shoulders was one of great pastoral beauty. Birds of the air also swooped down around him as he scattered the wheat seed on the ground. And if I was lucky enough, riding the horse from home, to bring him lunch prepared by my mother, and I could hear my dad singing an old ballad along with other farmers, also doing the same close by, then the image would be priceless. (Now naturally everything is done by tractors, combines and harvesters! My world is just a distant memory).
Plowing, plows, sowing, cleaning, harvesting the wheat, wielding a sickle, reaping the sheaves and bringing the loads by huge carts to be thrashed by a threshing wooden apparatus with large dented quartz cutting pieces underneath of it, all pulled by horses or oxen, and going round and round until after three or four days of doing so, it was refined enough and it was all gathered into a long muelo or elongated mound, and 10 or 12 men and women, two rows each, climbed into it, raised it enough throwing it up with the proper tools for the soft wind to separate the wheat from the chaff and hay (like in Roman times now gone forever!!), were also images Jesus saw, in the farm fields of Galilee. No wonder that in this Sunday Gospel from St. Luke (9: 51-62) he uses the images that appear in this eclectic Gospel, no doubt gathered from different SAYINGS of Jesus. One is the image of the MAN WHO PUTS HIS HAND ON THE PLOW, and remains steady to keep the furrow straight, without turning his head or back, is a symbol of another concept very dear to the identity of Jesus and HIS MISSION. It is the concept of DISCIPLESHIP. One must remain steady, hand to the plow, steady in the spiritual aim, so that the follower of Jesus will attain the goal: All so as TO BE PART OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD and SPREAD THAT KINGDOM TO OTHERS.
The person who is enamored of Jesus and of his message cannot go back and forth to other loves. This Jesus, who at times we may think that he says just sweet things about love and tells beautiful parables, does so as a TEACHER, willing to impart God's Wisdom and God's Life to those whom he invites, not coerces, to be his FOLLOWERS, his DISCIPLES, then and now. There is no easy way to this discipleship. There is no halfway approach for those who wish to enter His Kingdom. Jesus was very secure in his IDENTITY and his MISSION, received from his Father, and he will not deviate from it no matter what the cost. And the final cost we know what it was. His followers must endeavor to copy such identity and mission in their own lives. It is the PRIVILEGE of being other CHRISTS to the world. One cannot leave the plow and come back. One must "PLOW" forward so to speak.
Elijah anoints Elisha to be his successor as the Prophet of Yahweh, we read in the First Reading today. "Let me go and kiss my father goodbye", (v. 59), he pleads. There is no time for that, Elijah says. "Let me go first and bury my father", one disciple says, who wishes to follow Jesus. "Let the dead bury the dead", (v. 60), was the answer by Jesus, meaning, let those who are blind and dead to the call of the kingdom do those duties. "You follow me". Discipleship is scary and it is urgent. There is no time to waste.
For us this means that we must be constantly in such a mode as followers of Jesus. Values, priorities, life in general, must be rethought and reprioritized, in order for our discipleship to be authentic. Christ and his Kingdom must come first but not at the exclusion of family, friends, relationships, and responsibilities. They are also our means to be faithful to God's Kingdom. Difficult but not impossible. God's Grace makes all things possible. One continues to pray for the gift of living the life of Christ constantly and faithfully. It is a JOY to do what Jesus did.
So, KEEP PLOWING and do not look back! May Christ's Peace be with you always,